A Review by Noah Antwiler
The Blockbuster Video near my house has one of the worst selections I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of bad video stores. Before we even had major rental franchises near our house, the local mom-and-pop joint called Rent-A-Flick was the only place you could get movies, and even though their selection sucked, every item they did have was logically chosen. There was no wasted space on films like Femalien, MonsTURD, and Battlefield: Earth. They carried the box office hits, and kept enough classics and stuff for the kids to satisfy most people. Now, this Blockbuster I go to now carries essentially two things: new releases, Cinemax-grade porno and Z-level horror films. And there are by far more Z-level horror films than either of the other two. It's really weird to see just how much direct-to-video shlock gets made, and I'm just talking about the stuff the owner of this Blockbuster deemed WORTHY of shelf space in this store. I have nightmares about the titles (s)he rejects!
I know that I tend to ramble quite a bit on peripheral subjects, but my point is that this Blockbuster is a REALLY small place! Consider that you're a video store owner with limited space, located in the midst of nearly every Mormon in Arizona. I should assume that your default inventory would be a fairly mundane mix of new releases, comedies, dramas, classics, and more than a fair share of children's entertainment. I should think that low-budget porn films and poop monster flicks would not be very high on your list of priorities-- at least, considering the usual crowd you would expect. I don't know. Maybe I'm naive, but I think if you were to print up a list of all the people who rented these films, the only name you'd find there would be (shamefully) mine.
Maybe there really is a psychotic movie director torturing me indirectly through bad movie rental selections. Moment of Zen.
Anyway, any of you who have actually seen the first Tomie movie will likely take the following news like being hit in the shin with a soccer cleat: there are FIVE Tomie movies. And my Blockbuster video has most of them lined up in a neat row. They stare at me, challenging me. People have to see SOMETHING redeemable in a film to warrant sequels. And four sequels? I figured Tomie must be Japanese cinematic gold! After all, look how cool all those other extended movie series turned out.
Like Jaws...eew, no, wait...
Friday the 13th? Ick, hang on...
A Nightmare on Elm Street! No...
Uhhhh...James Bond? Has there ever been a good film series?
I was really shocked after viewing the first Tomie film. Sequels by rule are almost always inferior to the original, and I simply couldn't conceive how you could make a film more boring than Tomie without just airing a test pattern or a marathon of that Emiral Lagasse show. Imagine my surprise to discover that Tomie: Replay is actually better than the original!
Calm down, that ISN'T praise. The movie is still duller than a physics teacher's wardrobe, and it's still incomprehensibly stupid and just not very scary. But Replay seems to have been gifted with a bigger budget, a hotter Tomie, and a script where more stuff happens. You should know frοm the beginning that Tomie: Replay has essentially nothing to do with the original movie, save for the fact there's a creepy girl with hair hanging over her face that is a regenerating immortal that seduces men who go insane and kill people. None of the original characters return, which is not the way I would have gone to make this movie. Especially after all the effort they went to to establish some of the characters and the (lame) ending plot twist. It's also a much different movie in tone. Where Tomie was a more psychological movie, Replay relies more on gore and startling imagery to esablish that Tomie is some alien freakshow demon-thing. The violence is keyed up here, so you might actually find that the movie almost manages to hold your attention.
The movie begins by following a young girl who looks to be no older than 10, and has a bulging tummy as if to indicate she's incredibly knocked up. The doctors are stymied and keep prodding at her stomach, eventually pulling up her shirt to reveal a diseased-looking veiny, nasty belly. It sort of looks like what happens after you'd spend a week on the Burger King "Angus Diet." Upon further prodding, something disgsusting and tentacle-ish writhes beneath her skin. Great googa mooga, that was actually a scare! It was a cheap scare, but it was THERE! Anyway, the doctors diagnose that a writhing monster inside your gut is A Bad Thing. Keep this in mind should you ever actually decide to have children! Anyway, the doctors rush the girl off to the ER and hurriedly thwack her belly open with a scalpel. I don't use the word "thwack" lightly, because the doctor basically splits her open like a baked potato in one deft motion. The girl's body convulses and the surgeon jams his scalpel into his own thumb. And you know that can't be good, plunging a surgical instrument you just used to open up a pus-filled diseased-looking demon womb into your hand. Whatever's in her gut wiggles around until you can see an eye peeking out through the incision. Somehow, Tomie's entire head has found its way into this girl.
"I'm Tomie," the head says. I would have said something much funnier prepared if I was a demon head, like "Here's Johnny!" or I'd sing that "Hello My Baby" song the WB frog sings.
The credit sequence rolls, showing Tomie's head being dunked into an aquarium. Because that's what I do if I'd pulled a talking woman's head out of an 8-year old's stomach by Caesarian. I'd probably have that thing lined up on a clay pigeon launcher with a loaded shotgun in hand in about 15 minutes. That just ain't right. The camera settles on a couple of orderlies having a conversation during a late-night McDonalds break. "Four nurses quit all at once," says one. Clearly they had the good sense to realize that when a prepubescent girl gives birth to a 22-year old woman's HEAD that can introduce itself, they should be as far away frοm it as humanly possible. The doctors, however, seem to have decided to stick it in a fish tank and leave it alone in a dark room, with nobody watching it. You have what could possibly be the birth of the Antichrist in your hospital, and you pay it less mind than the aquarium in the lobby at Red Lobster? Anyway, the orderlies don't really know what's going on. They only know that the director of the hospital's gone missing, and all the doctors are acting a little nutty recently. Their conversation is interrupted by patient: an old woman who might have the scariest feet I've ever seen.
The two orderlies shoo the hammertoed weirdo away and go back to eating chips and drinking Mountain Dew and Heineken. Really! Given their love for unhealthy food and a robust McDonalds diet in a hospital, I hereby give them the honorary Tarantino names Jules and Vincent, and I hope vainly that one asks the other what they call a Quarter Pounder in Shinjuku. I get the feeling that they both really should be working, as they've both sequestered themselves in a vacant room, hidden with a curtain pulled around the bed they've chosen to use as a dining table. They're oggling nurses, but finally decide that they're hopelessly feeble around women and go back to drinking. Vincent's stomach starts to cramp and he hurries off to the bathroom, moaning "I can't drink beer yet." After a fine meal of vending machine Doritos, a Big Mac, fries, and Heineken, I can only wonder and fear at the damage he's done to his own digestive tract. I go to college and I can barely stand to do that to myself. These guys are a couple of hard-gainers. Seriously, I wouldn't wish McDonalds on anyone. Their fries are among the most flexible yet durable substances known to man, impervious to molecular decay and completely flavor-resistant. They should put kidney dialysis machines in every booth in those places.
Me? I go to Taco Bell, where they've got seat belts on the toilets!
Anyway, we go back to see that the (completely unsupervised) head-in-a-tank has transformed into...
- A creepy girl with dark hair hanging over her face.
- A creepy girl with dark hair hanging over her face.
- A creepy girl with dark hair hanging over her face.
- Frank Stallone.
Yeah, she's spontaneously grown a new body frοm her head stump and is currently sitting nude in her fish tank. No, you don't see her boobs. What movie do you think you're watching, Species? You've got to earn your nudity here, homestank. Vincent is meanwhile agonizing in the bathroom over his poor choice in meals. He's completely alone and, because of his stomach cramps, unable to run at a very fast clip. So I'm guessing he's about to get picked off by Tomie. Tomie crawls out of the tank and gets her land legs back (which are immaculately shaved), and starts walking the hospital completely naked. No, you don't see her ass. Let it go. Vincent hobbles out of the bathroom, having dropped a mighty load in the thunderbucket courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and Ronald McDonald. He sees Tomie wandering the halls in her birthday suit, double takes, and then muses out loud "I got to go again--" as he turns back for the bathroom.
Whaat? This is one funky plot device. The "I have to pee" routine is an old slasher movie classic when someone needs to die away frοm the other campers. But I've never seen the case where the victim drops a Number Two, wanders halfway back, stops, and then decides "You know what? I think I've got another shot at this." But hey, maybe this ability to repeat waste expulsion could be crafted into a real talent later on. There could be a sport in this.
Jules is reclining in a bed reading a comic book as we frequently look back to see shots of Tomie's feet slowly pacing the halls. We can only see her feet at this time, because she's got hair hanging over her face, and we're seemingly not allowed to get a peek at her butt. I have to nitpick on a technical detail, but only because it's so tremendously badly done that it sticks out. The sound editing and the foley work is some of the worst I've ever heard, as the wet "splat" sounds of Tomie's footfalls on the floor are HORRIBLY out of sync with her actual steps. You might not think this is a serious issue, but the camera dwells on Tomie's sexy naked feet for quite some time, and we have to endure the same "splat" sound for a few minutes every time she raises her feet. Instead of ambushing Vincent in the bathroom as I expected, Tomie sneaks up on Jules and grabs his hand. The foley artist decides that this should sound like slapping your hand against a refrigerator door. "I...got lost," Tomie says creepily, "Get me out of here." Since Jules is a lonely man who reads comics, these are unquestionably the first real breasts he's ever seen, and he follows her orders without question.
Jules takes her back to his crummy apartment and surprisingly, tries to get her to put some clothes ON. Jules seats Tomie on his bed, which is about as wide as a saltine cracker, and starts to dry her off. Tomie attempts to ramp up the seduction by brandishing a leg at him (literally seems to threaten him with it) and tossing her clothes on Jules' head. When Jules pulls the shirt off his face, he's surprised to see that Tomie has somehow teleported a shocking distance of two feet to the other side of the bed. This doesn't really seem to shake Jules all that much and he drones lifelessly "I will make coffee." Tomie starts acting kind of weird, as it seems she's spontaneously lost one of her arms. I don't get it either. Jules just notices that she now only has one arm. Tomie starts wigging out, asking "Are you going to kill me?" and rambling quietly about how much being dead sucks, with all the worms and bugs and Vincent Price.
Then, completely out of left field, without warning or pretext, Jules hops to his feet and bitch slaps Tomie into next week! Holy crap! Jules has got some pimp hand when the bitch won't shut up!
Back at the hospital, an attractive schoolgirl named Yumi is wandering around asking the nurses if they have any word of her father. It seems her dad's gone missing, but everyone's clammed up about it. Meanwhile, a worried mother is also seeking answers. It seems her daughter was admitted a little while ago to have a headectomy (a complex operation which is required in the odd event that someone inserts a human head in you). She manages to corner a particularly stoned-looking doctor who looks like he keeps a bong the size of a bazooka in his office. At all times, his slack expression and clammy skin has all the indications of a man who has ingested expired mayonnaise. His name is now Dr. Bong. Dr. Bong increasingly weirds out as the scene progresses, growing distracted, staring at shiny reflection, and so forth. "Your daughter's symptoms were very uncommon," Bong says in a baked-tone. Uncommon? Dude, she had a woman's HEAD INSIDE HER. A head!! Uncommon ain't the word for it. "Your daughter is alive. The operation went well," he continues. Yeah, about as well as can be expected considering WE YANKED A HUMAN HEAD OUT OF YOUR DAUGHTER. What's the yardstick used to measure success in that situation? I had a rhesus monkey extracted frοm my colon once, but we're talking an oddity far beyond the odd monkey insertion.
"You don't have to worry about anything," Bong says in a monotone. The hell I don't! I want to know if this shit is contagious! "Nothing...IS WRONG!" Bong says with strange emphasis. It's startling in the way you would react if the waiter at Denny's walked up to you and said "Pancakes...ARE READY!" Dr. Bong's attention is distracted once more to the far side of the room as he asks "Right, Ms. Sayuri?" We then see that Bong's been looking at a porcelain doll this whole time, confirming his drug use. I think she may need to seek a second opinion on this one.
Later, Yumi also runs into Dr. Bong as she steps out of an elevator. I think Dr. Bong was in the middle of having a hushed conversation with the elevator call panel, but he seems quite pleased to see Yumi since her dad is the director of the hospital. Bong doesn't stick around long and hands Yumi a thick blue manila folder before bumbling into the elevator like a lethargic Kramer. Yumi looks a little creeped that Bong just spontaneously handed her a mysterious envelope, and decides that now would be a good time to go home. As she steps out the door, Dr. Bong unexpectedly splatters into the asphalt in front of her. This is more funny than shocking, given Dr. Bong's hilarious "duhhhh" death face and the fact that the chosen foley effect for a man plummeting to his death seems to be the sound of someone dropping a pumpkin. It sort of looks like Bong just jumped out the second floor window and should be able to walk it off. Vincent (the guy with the weak bladder) is also in the lobby and hears Yumi's panicked shriek.
Yumi's a real trooper, though, and manages to make it all the way home before she has to toss her cookies.
It's now late at night, but Vincent is still stuck in the hospital waiting room trying to reach Jules on an oddly-colored lime green payphone. Jules is officially checked-out of the Sanity Hotel, rambling about how Tomie belongs to him before he hangs up the phone. You see, Tomie has the Seinfeldian shiks-appeal. She's an immortal demon who takes the form of a barely-legal hottie, and any dude that lays eyes on her is consumed by a completely-overriding desire to, well, lay something else on her. After only a few moments of being with her, they become completely whipped, like myself if I ever met Morgan Webb. Her powers eventually drive men loopy and they kill anyone they perceive as a theat to their "ownership" of Tomie. Her technique is a little flawed, however, and most of the time a guy manages to overcome his horniness and hacks her head off. She's not really a very good demon, but she has the power to regenerate her body whenever a date ends in a decapitation. I don't know why Tomie is so unhappy most of the time. You could really exploit this in Vegas somehow, or make a real career in pro wrestling!
Anyway, Jules surprises me once again by spontaneously picking up the phone cradle and absolutely destroying Tomie upside the back of the head with it! Great googa mooga, Jules, you got SERIOUS issues. But I have to admit, he's the master of the blindsided attack! Tomie TOTALLY got Pearl Harbored twice in one night. Jules finishes the job by playing Anvilania's national anthem on Tomie's head with the phone cradle. After that, he immediately strips to his skin and chops her body up with a hacksaw.
Like I said. Not a very good demon.
Yumi's at home, reading her father's journal. Evidently, when he cut his thumb during the operation, he got infected with Tomieitis. In the words of the immortal undead slayer Ash, "It got into my hand, and it went bad!" Yumi and Vincent get together to talk about their mutual run-ins with the name "Tomie" and start comparing notes. Vincent's still having problems with abdominal cramps, a clear indication that he's PMSing. They continue to read the journal, which discusses how Tomie has managed to drive the entire hospital staff batty. This is complemented by some really funny shots of doctors bonking their heads against the wall. The journal is written mostly in blood, which means that whatever Yumi's dad had to say is of dire importance because he didn't have time to find a pen. I do give him credit for his excellent kanji penmanship. Blood is hard to write with!
Jules is covering up his murder like a real pro, burying Tomie's head in the woods, neatly contained in a plastic supermarket shopping bag. But when he gets home, surprise surprise, the rest of the body isn't where it's supposed to be! Instead, Tomie's not quite dead yet, and her body is still ambulatory in the apartment. To Jules' shock (and my amusement), Tomie just shlurps a new head right out of her neck stump!
Instead of showing us what happens, the camera oddly cuts away to sometime in the future, as Yumi and Vincent are approaching Jules' apartment. As is the M.O. for Tomie movies, we don't actually see the horrific acts being perpetrated, we just see the aftermaths. It's like an episode of C.S.I., only not as good. Jules is found in his closet, grinning like a dumbass and gibbering "Monster! Monster!" He sort of looks like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
In another odd choice of edits, we cut directly away frοm that to the next day! We don't even find out what they did with Jules, who moments ago was loopier than Toucan Sam for Froot Loops. It's like this movie was run through a filter, which strains out all the dramatic, interesting stuff. Yumi's alone at home, naturally hearing weird noises around the house. A quick comment about Yumi's house: everything in the entire damn place, floor, walls, doors, and ceiling, is made of wood paneling. Even in log cabins, I haven't seen this much wood interior!
Yumi rounds the corner, when suddenly...
It's a cheap scare. Yumi's dad just pops into frame looking like this and howling like a dork. His arm is all writhing and messed up frοm being infected with Tomieitis. He starts rambling on about how Tomie's able to reproduce herself constantly frοm severed body parts, and about how she needs to be destroyed. We find Tomie out in the woods at the spot where her head is buried. In a goofy twist, the severed head is still talking, and Tomie (with a spare head now) starts taunting the other head! It seems that there's no loyalty among severed Tomie heads, as the bipedal Tomie unearths the old Tomie head, says (in essence) "Sucks to be you," and sets the head on fire! Interesting twist. Even Tomie heads don't get along. Anyway, Yumi's dad vanishes as quickly as he appeared, leaving Yumi alone again in her House of Lumber.
Yumi gathers her wits and decides that she needs to track down Tomie, so she can get some answers for what she's done to her dad. She goes to the six-year-old's house-- her best lead so far. When she gets there, everyone is (naturally) nucking futs. The kid's father explains that she had a kidney transplant frοm Tomie's slain corpse frοm the first movie, and that's how she got knocked-up, so to speak. Say what you like about Tomie, but she filled out her organ donor card! The little kid is also ramping up the nightmare fuel, seemingly turning into a Tomie Mini-Me. It seems that instead of a demon, Tomie's some kind of infection, now. Not that I really care; she's not that effective at anything.
Later that night, Yumi and Vincent are comparing notes once again. Vincent is starting to mentally unravel, and turning into the movie's own Private Hudson. Tomie's gotten into his head, and it's starting to drive him, like all other men, crazy. Yumi goes outside to investigate a strange thumping noise outside her door (always smart), when suddenly, Vincent comes zooming out of the door with his arms outstretched like he was Freakazoid trying to fly. It's not really scary, just funny to see a grown man contorting his face and running around with arms akimbo. Vincent beelines straight for Yumi and pushes her down an impressively steep flight of concrete stairs. She wasn't that annoying...I kind of liked her.
Tomie looms over Yumi's broken body, laughing maniacally! Suddenly, we see a car roar out frοm the nearby street! It's Vincent, coming to save Yumi!
"Go faster!" a distorted voice frοm the back seat shouts. We can see another Tomie in the back seat of the car, egging Vincent on! Only this Tomie has a burned face and is wearing the exact same clothes. Wait...how did he get down the stairs so quickly to the street? And how did he get to his car so fast? And why did he park so far away so that he'd be going in speeds in excess of 120 km/h when he got there? What the hell is going on? I really have no idea what's happening now. How did Old Tomie get in Vincent's car? Where did she get the exact same clothes? And why do the Tomie Clones all seem to hate each other so much?
Old Tomie leans out the window, laughing murderously as the car rockets towards New Tomie. Then, infuriatingly, the scene ends instantly and we're seeing the hospital the next morning! What in the hell? Who is editing this trash? Did Tomie get run over? What happened to Vincent and Old Tomie? Why can't we see anything remotely exciting or scary happen? Why do they call it Canadian bacon? It's just ham!
UGH. Anyway, I don't have any answers for those questions. I'm not even sure either Tomie was killed by the car. Instead, we see a nurse snooping around the hospital's basement, where Tomie's old "head aquarium" was kept. Only now, the nurse sees something that makes her scream like one of those women in the classic 1950s monster flicks. You know, eyes bugged WAY out, hands up to the sides of the face, and a prolonged "EYYAAAAAAGGGGH!!!" Yumi's dad has somehow been stuffed into the little tank, and his face is all smooshed up against the glass. It's really funny.
Yumi has somehow survived thanks to inexplicable editing, and is currently talking to some doctors about her dad, who was sort of scrunched up in a ball and stuffed in a tank of formaldehyde. She's naturally a bit upset about that, but still in shock over everything that's happened so far. Now she's got a broken leg frοm her tumble down the stairs. The doctors found a videotape at the scene. It seems that the best security the doctors could come up with to safeguard the Tomie head was to put a camcorder in the room. This is why Ph.Ds get paid the big bucks. The videotape documents the growth of the Tomie head over time, as it grows a new spinal column and, eventually, a whole new body! But these doctors don't really believe any of these wild stories.
Yumi receives a letter signed by Tomie saying, "I will wait for you at the hospital." It's got a scary dark basement, so it's the perfect place to meet the psycho killer. Which Tomie wrote the letter? Aren't there two of them running around now? I don't really know why Tomie has any personal grudge towards Yumi, since she has nothing to do with Tomie whatsoever. In fact, Tomie should be a little grateful since her dad performed the surgery! But I suppose if I've learned anything about Tomie, it's that she's pretty emotionally immature and doesn't need much of a reason to go after someone. Yumi doesn't hesitate for a second and rolls her wheelchair right back to the hospital for her final showdown with Tomie. The hospital has since been closed because all hell has broken loose in the last week, what with doctors swan diving off the roof and cramming themselves in tanks of alkaline solution. Yumi sees no reason to call the cops, and instead braves this one out alone, figuring she can take the regenerating demon just fine without the use of her legs.
She's not too bright.
Tomie's prepared all sorts of mischief for her, too. She even takes the time to rig up a mannequin head, stuff it with live maggots, and has it balanced just right to fall out of the shadows into Yumi's lap at the right time. That's the kind of psychological preparation you just don't get out of slasher killers like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.
Yumi finally tracks Tomie down in the dank basement, where she collects a wood ax frοm a set of janitor equipment. Because hospital janitors get a lot of use for wood axes. She doesn't keep the ax long, though, because she rather stupidly throws it towards the sound of Tomie's voice. Vincent shows up in an attempt to get Yumi out of there, but quickly ends up brainwashed by Tomie's sex mojo. Vincent collects the ax and raises it to give Yumi a good whack, but somehow manages to resist and instead swings the ax into his own kneecap. Good job, champ. Even Tomie seems a little frustrated at the uselessness of men and decides instead to collect the ax herself and starts to wheel Yumi down the corridors of the basement. Tomie goes on at great length about how nobody understands her, how she's always alone, and whines herself silly. As if I cared about humanizing this character or her rationalization for being a freak. Yumi's fed up with her diatribe, too, and calls her a monster.
For some reason, Tomie has real issues with being called "Demon" or "Monster," and stops dead in her tracks. You want to psychoanalyze your situation, Tomie? Okay. Here's the deal. You regenerate your body whenever someone hacks a piece off of you. You tend to defile and corrupt people like an infection. Your mere presence incites more violence and insanity than Ron Artest, and you lit your own severed head on fire for a giggle. You are a monster, baby, but that's okay! You have to learn to love yourself. Love all the clones of yourself grown frοm severed body parts. Doggone it, people like you! Can't you see all the guys throwing themselves at your feet? True, they all become rampaging psychos eventually, but you need to admit that you have a problem. Improve your self-esteem and try to find a stable guy. Who knows? Maybe there's a regenerating nimrod guy out there you could hook up with. You never know until you put out a personal ad on the Internet.
Sadly, Tomie still has some rage issues and judo kicks the wheelchair down the hallway, sending Yumi sprawling to the floor while Tomie does that deliberate "psycho killer slow walk" thing they all do, where they're in no particular hurry to kill you. Tomie just keeps whining on and on about how people keep killing her, but she won't stay dead. Over and over. If you're that sick of being killed, Tomie, why don't you carry a weapon, or learn karate or something? You're a freaking demon! Show a little self-respect and get scary! You've got a reputation to uphold. You're no good if just anyone can bash your head in with a telephone. Being scary doesn't just HAPPEN. You have to make it happen!
Anyway, Vincent hurries into the scene again and expertly lops off Tomie's head with a single whack frοm the ax. It's a REALLY good shot, too, because Tomie's body collapses into the wheelchair, rolls backwards into a rack of chemicals, which all explode for no apparent reason. That has to be a safety code violation; anyone could stumble into that rack and get spontaneously immolated! Tomie's body gets nicely roasted, but her head is having a good laugh safely on the floor. You better be careful! In a few days she'll grow a new pair of legs and kick your ass! Yumi doesn't wait that long and just tosses the head on the barbeque with the rest of her body. By my count, there are at least two more Tomies out there, so nothing has really been resolved. There's no denouement, either; they just wander outside and the credits roll. The music that plays over the credits is a hilariously inappropriate piece of J-pop that sounds like a cover of "You've Got a Friend In Me" that might play over a 1980s sitcom.
Oh god, there are three more of these movies.